Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Sitting before all else.

I find that a neat way to "trick" the ego (ie. conditioned personality) into sitting, is to promise its desires AFTER one has sat for a small period of time.

Normally, our meditation practice goes through stages and cycles of interest and disinterest, however, it's important to keep our practice going, since it's all too easy to fall back into conditioning which we've been acting out since time immemorial.

The only way we can actually overcome conditioning and the ego's love of focusing on the external world (rather than the inner world and SELF) is to actually sit in formal meditation.

Despite the thousands of suggestions in existence on how to gain "happiness", it is a fact that nobody has come up with anything remotely as effective as meditation and/or contemplation as a way to reduce our mind's conditioning and thereby reduce ours and our world's suffering. 

Psychological work, external gratification, material wealth, intellectual understandings, rationalisation, belief systems, and an endless universe of egoic pursuits have not yet matched the simple results of sitting in silence/stillness/awareness for a period of time. We can all test this for ourself.

The conditioned personality, of course, knows this- and does all within its power to constantly sabotage our spiritual practice in order to 1) frustrate the practitioner 2) give itself power and autonomy through such frustration, and/or 3) failing this, come in through the back door and introduce striving, expectations, ownership and goal objectives into the practice.

One simple way to plant small "seeds" of awareness throughout one's day, and also bypass the ego's attempts at thwarting our practice, is to perform a small sitting before any entertainment or leasure project whatsoever.

The project (or promise to the ego) then goes ahead after the sitting. The ego is satisfied and is OK to wait, and the sitting gets done. The length of the sitting does not matter so much as the actual performance of some sitting for more than 5 minutes. Whether for not the all-important-project still goes ahead later matters not, but the small "seed" of conscious awareness and the introduction of some SELF into one's day can make a subtle, but definite impact long-term. 

This also ensures we are doing what needs to be done, rather than what doesn't need to be done. What do I mean by this? In short, when we are on our DEATH BED, it will not be the computer games, movies, home-projects, after-work projects, friend-catch-ups, or thousand other leasure-pursuits that help us. It will be the accumulated acquaintance that we have with SELF or GOD that ultimately ensures our peace.

Friday, January 24, 2014

Suffering as a starting point.

"I teach suffering and the cessation of suffering." (reportedly The Buddha)

"In this world, all things come into being and perish, therefore there is the repeated experience of sorrow." (Sri Vasistha)

"The settling of the mind in its goal by turning away from the mass of objects, through observing their defects again and again, is known as peace." (Sankara)

"Suffering has made you dull; unable to see its entirety and enormity. Your first task is to see the sorrow in you and around you." (Nisargadatta)

"Vanity of vanities, all is vanity." (Ecclesiastes 1)

The question often strikes me, when out and about mixing with society, 'How does one relate on a deeper level with those seeming 'others' we meet in our life? How can we relate to these strangers, apart from the concepts overlaid automatically by our own mind?'

Is there a way to relate to 'the other', which can bypass the conditioning and sabotaging of the ego that is only interested in obtaining something from others? Even altruism and so called self-less acts for others, in the end, seem empty, done usually for secret self-serving motives such as pleasant feelings, future rewards 'in heaven' etc.

One way which has been recommended by sages since time immemorial is that of recognising and working with suffering. We can find references to the use of suffering as a foundational base in many orthodox and esoteric spiritual traditions. The reason for this is manifold, but in essence, there are not so many other starting places which begin as close to the bone, ie. our ordinary, present experience as felt during our daily suffering existence.

This doesn't mean that one intentionally needs to find specific areas of suffering, such as physical pain, relationship conflicts and other problematic areas we all have, though it can include this. Rather, these teachings point to the UNIVERSALITY and all-pervasiveness of suffering and sorrow inherent in our very existence, which we all initially find ourselves, usually started from around age three; as separate physical entities living in a seemingly random universe. Despite our individual beliefs about the universe and our existence, the hard facts that we find when on the street or alone at home verify the truth that sages have taught in the past- life itself, and the body itself, IS suffering. "There is suffering."

But isn't this just another mental filter? Do not mystics also proclaim the unreality of "the dream" of existence? Yes, but we have no choice but to start from where we are. Attempting to start from a conceptual place of 'elsewhere', while ignoring our present state of affairs leads to further suffering down the track. As all things in existence are also temporary, then views and beliefs themselves, and attempts to circumvent our present state of affairs must end at some point, and appear as the awful truth we were attempting to escape from via our magical thinking. Follow up on any "Law of Attraction" devotee after a few years and find out whether they still have the energy and motivation to attempt to will unreality onto their reality. Fortunately, all of us have only a limited supply of energy, motivation and will-power, which will one day be exhausted and bring us to the ultimate discovery of suffering and its inescapable presence in our lives and in those around us, while we exist in a body.

Yet a strange thing happens once we embark on this via dolorosa and embrace the existence of suffering everywhere we look. We find that the separateness and power of the ego seems to diminish slightly. External objects and people are no longer simply objects of attainment. We join creation on a fundamental level and are united "in suffering" with others, high and low. Our heart opens up, even ever so slightly, in the form of compassion for those around us, as they are no longer "perfect" or idealised, or despised.. but merely other entities also "fighting the good fight" and trying as best they can to live with their own sufferings of existence.

Most importantly though, working with suffering and investigating its all-pervasiveness, may allow us to come to certain life-changing conclusions. Perhaps there is no solution to suffering within this reality we experience here. Perhaps all efforts to obtain "perfection" (physical, financial, emotional, intellectual and whatever your 'summum bonum' happens to be) are doomed to failure due to inherent limitations in existence- impermanence. Perhaps we've been looking in the wrong place for happiness and love all along, the wrong place being any external place whatsoever. As we become less enchanted with possible solutions and imaginations for a pleasant future, our desire for real, permanent liberation also increases. A doorway is opened, which previously did not exist.

We have no choice but to start where we are. Man is a machine, sages such as Gurdjieff tell us, man who sits in a public house drunk with dreams about himself. Yet there are clues and hints within the dream, as in the movie 'Inception'. As a dog that traces the scent of its master, we can trace the scent of Godhead if we truly desire. The subtle fragrances of love, kindness, contentment, and happiness float past a dozen times a day unnoticed, and often amongst the messiest of situations.

May we have the grace today to see ourselves as we truly are.

Thursday, January 23, 2014

Spirit or flesh? Consciousness or materiality?

A random Bible quote floated into my space today:

"I say then: Walk in the Spirit, and you shall not fulfil the lust of the flesh. For the flesh lusts against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh; and these are contrary to one another, so that you do not do the things that you wish." (Galatians 5:16-17) NKJV.

Now, before ye think that I'm getting all puritanical here.. quotes such as these, especially in Christianity, are taken either 2 ways:

1. Certain groups take the above to mean that one should strive actively, using will-power, prayer etc., against thoughts, desires, 'wishes', and especially inclinations of the sex impulse, in order to overcome such desires in favour of "holiness" or what they perceive to be "Spirit"- usually a belief or ideal concept. Usually also the ticket required to attain better states such as entry into 'heaven'. Most orthodox religions, conservatives, and traditionalist groups fit here.

2. Certain other groups take the exact opposite road, and rebel against the above, actively seeking to prove that desire is healthy, should be acted on, and that especially the sex impulse should be satisfied in whatever means available. Most Left-hand-paths, fringe psychotherapists, new-agers, libertarians etc. fit here.

However, what if the above quote merely states a simple fact, written in a language understandable for those of 2000 years ago?

That simple fact is clearly visible to anyone on the path of Direct Knowledge. Simply stated, it is that there are two realities which do not in any way meet, and that whichever reality one is identified with, ultimately determines one's experience in the world, including one's behaviour.

Those two realities are here called "Spirit" and "flesh", but could also be called "Consciousness" and "materiality", or "Subject" and "object", or "Truth" and "illusion", or "SAT" and "maya".. come up with your own.

By attempting to act out both views (1) and (2) above, one is clearly still walking in the way of "flesh", rather than "Spirit". Why? Because there is an individual present, identified with materiality and struggling to make changes in an external world of dualities. There is a "you" and there is a problem (in this case desire/lust) which must be overcome or indulged. Even 'acceptance of the problem', as touted by so many 'spiritual teachers' today who offer advice, STILL requires an individual identified with materiality to 'accept' a material problem (often in the hopes that it will resolve).

When identification with Spirit is complete, the whole illusion of materiality and the 'external world' is seen through exactly as it is- a mind creation born of automatic conditioning, which needs no more fixing than a dream occurring during sleep.

There are only two choices or ways in which 'to walk'- Truth and illusion, Consciousness and sleep. And "..by their fruits, ye shall know them".

Monday, January 13, 2014

The world and its destruction- daily!

It can happen: we are struck by the sheer monstrosity of "the world". A meaningless world, which appears much like a horror movie with characters and frightening scenes. Sometimes the movie becomes a black comedy though, due to the sheer stupidity of the way events and people play out in the world.

Beggars on the street, people scooping old cigarette butts from garbage bins, others sitting in McDonalds with food splattered on their faces, office workers "dressed-up" playing the part, shop workers running around frantically under the supervision of a "manager", cars blowing their horns because someone has blocked a traffic lane. No need to search for hell in the Middle East or Africa.

As Gurdjieff said, "The terror of the situation", and "all food for the moon".

Of perhaps as ACIM points out "A meaningless world engenders fear."

Or perhaps as the Chaos mages point out, the only reasonable response to an insane chaos universe is laughter.

I actually found my self enamoured with Lord BHAIRAVA today, the terror aspect of SHIVA, worshipped by several sects in Shaivism and Tantrism.

Bhairava stands for destruction and terror, but more importantly the destruction of the ordered, meaningful and yet impossible universe built by the logical mind (and egoic self). This also includes the universe that "needs to be saved" by "compassionate means", as some practitioners would say. Some tantric adherents intentionally "break all the rules" in an attempt to bring down the mind structure.

Destruction of the illusory universe (or maya) by various means also appears in Tibetan Buddhism through Vajrapani (a wrathful diety/bodhisattva) representing skilful means in attaining the goal of realization of Reality. Skilfull means includes any means, the test being effectiveness and success.

By invoking Bhairava, the dream-forms we have invested with reality (and thereby becoming both the beauty and horror duality of the world) are seen through, and thus destroyed instantly. This requires that we are working on a basis that the universe is instantly created each moment by our own (defective) mind- (the "drshti-shrsti-vada" view in Vedanta). Otherwise, taking the progressive creation view (srshti-drshti-vada), we need to take a more gradual approach to the destruction of our illusions that have taken lifetimes to crystalize.

But why the need to "destroy" the universe, since isn't it all part of the Wholeness or Nondual consciousness anyway? (says the Neo-Advaitin). True, but is that YOUR experience right now?

By invoking Bhairava, the terror of the situation is destroyed by the Lord of Terror.

As one side of a duality cannot exist without another, the Consciousness ("chit") side of reality becomes clearer (with the removal of the illusory side of the coin). Yet, even this is a duality (illusion+reality), yet a step in the right direction. This is surely felt by the instant feeling of peace ("ananda") which comes along with a higher degree of conscious awareness.


Monday, January 6, 2014

TAROT revisited.

By some recent chain of events, I've been led to revisit the TAROT system.. ie. the 72 picture cards, which surfaced around the 15-16th Century in Europe.

Contrary to popular usage as a fortune-telling or divination device, TAROT can also be used for a wide range of purposes from contemplation and meditation to tantra and magic. It's along these lines- as a contemplative and self-transformation tool- that I've had a long-term interest with TAROT. This started for me personally more than a decade ago due to its relevance to systems in the Western Mystery Tradition (Hermeticism, Freemasonry, Qabalah, Alchemy etc.), which I had taken up after seeking some balance from a prior decade of completely Eastern outlook.

Returning to the TAROT however, my main current interest is along the lines of finding ways to integrate its use with that of other contemplative paths (especially those of direct awareness and self-inquiry). This might sound a little strange, though powerful results do seem evident from combining both these tools in a largely uncharted, yet workable way. On the other hand, success through using TAROT as a contemplative tool isn't so surprising, since the TAROT itself is like a mini-model for our every day reality-- virtually every scenario that could possibly play out in life (psychologically and karmically or event-wise) is displayed somewhere among the 72 cards. Further, the Trumps take into account most of the major human archetypes in existence. As Jung was interested in pointing out, these ever-present archetypes normally float under the conscious awareness of groups and individuals, yet all the while exerting silent influence. Hence any contemplative practice using the set of TAROT images and themes would likely make for an excellent controlled training ground for later transference into the "real" world of our normal (and largely unconscious and robotic) daily living environment.

The concept of a "lab" or training ground isn't a new thing in contemplative practice, which, since inception, has advocated fixed times for silent, isolated meditation, yogas, and/or contemplation, away from the usual circumstances one finds oneself enmeshed in life. Although there are certain 'teachers' around these days that dismiss the idea of fixed meditation sessions, or even the need for controlled contemplation (- I won't bother to go into the flawed rationale here), most aspirants and hands-on practitioners, do appreciate the need for a controlled environment, where 'experiments' in consciousness can be carried out calmly, precisely and without interruption. Importantly, such experiments and trainings, when repeated, can then later be transferred easily into ordinary daily activities.

Likewise, the TAROT, through it's all-encompassing scheme of Major/Minor cards, and its portability and ease of use, also offers such a controlled "lab" for experiments in consciousness and beyond. For those unfamiliar with the TAROT, I would recommend starting with the standard Rider-Waite deck, due to it being the most common deck in existence, and also due to its relative simplicity in layout, and the ease in which impressions are conveyed.

(Minor Arcana of the Rider-Waite deck, first published in 1910.)